tv The Stream Al Jazeera November 11, 2013 7:30pm-8:01pm EST
♪ hi, i'm lisa fletcher, and you are in the stream. turning enemies into friends is tough, but does the state department of art, energy and culture make it any easier? ♪ our digital producer, wajahat ali is here. and waj the buzz words for tonight, cultural diplomacy. >> yeah, and we had a huge international response to these questions.
>> as always. multiple sides to this one. >> yeah. yeah. >> chat it through in the next half hour in the battle to win hearts and minds, the state department is turning to art, music and other cultural activities to build bridges around the world. proponents say it is critical. but some critics say the results are hard to measure and our cultural diplomacy can't make up
for use of things like drones. we're joined by our panel. and for all of us who it is your first time watching tonight, we're all about access. we use a variety of technologies. including skype, which allows us to reach all sorts of people. cynthia, we want to start with you. in many ways this sounds like a fancy name for goodwill gestures. how do you really define cultural diplomacy? >> that's hard to do. let me start with sample definition and then tell you what i think it isn't anymore. cultural diplomacy is people to
people diplomacy for the 21st centry. diplomacy is no longer government to government or men sitting around trees signing treaties. so what is it then? i think it should be as much about intake as about output. you know, we think of the traditional model of sending american jazz musicians around the world which worked very effectively in the cold war period, when we clearly were about winning hearts and minds. and what we understood then was it wasn't just about packaging a positive message. it was about showing a real side of the united states. we send around african american musicians at a time when in the
united states they couldn't even go in the front door of theaters where they were playing, and as well as playing their music, they told that story, and there is no more effective way to present freedom of speech than to demonstrate it. >> and spencer is it true? >> sorry cynthia. >> go ahead. spencer. >> well, government-to-government diplomacy is never going to go away, first of all. and i don't envy those at the state department that have to engage in cultural diplomacy, when it is extremely hard to measure the outputs. to find out what the u.s. gets
back from it. at the same time, the kind of investment that the united states makes to use an example of sending african american jazz musicians overseas, necessarily contrasts with the realities of what the u.s.'s civil rights record was at the time. and certainly it becomes something that looks less credible in the minds of a lot of foreign publics, when the u.s.'s actual face looks extremely militaryized. and it's very difficult to overcome that. >> spencer our community is coming in here. here is howard . . .
willow you are at the fault line here. you are a very well-known writer. you speak arabic and have an egyptian husband. oftentimes do you feel the burden of being a global cultural ambassador who has to bridge the dieds? >> i try not to think about it in those terms. in order to make good art, one has to be true first and foremost to the story it is trying to tell. so that has been my experience. i always try to be conscious of the fact that whatever you do, and no matter what you do, you do represent your own community to both back to that community and to the world at large, so i try to keep those things in
mind, but also not be limited by them, because i think one can talk one's self into a box in situations like this, and over thinks a little bit, when in fact what we should be doing is focusing on the connection rather than branding something. i think we need to trust in the person to person connections that the other guests have been talking about, to do the bridge building, rather than sit down and say i'm going to make a strategy and follow through. i think that the division comes when you are talking about branding and packaging a message for a specific purpose, versus telling a particular truth that will cause people to empathize with each other. so i try to stay on -- on one side of that line and not sort of stray over into the other -- >> in situations like pakistan
where the political issues are between the two governments and two militaries, in those kinds of contentious situations what can cultural diplomacy do? >> well, i think we need to understand that it meant something very different before the internet. people were trying to share each other's cultures and there was no way to really do that. and today the internet has completely changed that. and so what we have to do is help cultivate the ability to express your narratives on the internet, and that's some of the work that i and my colleagues are trying to do, is spreading their sense of literalry on the internet -- >> but how does that sharing of culture really address these very serious issues in places like pakistan? >> part of the grievance is people not feeling that they are being heard, right?
so cultural express is another way to get your point of view out, and i think it's in our interests as the u.s. to encourage that and to help people cultivate their own sense of narrative so we can have a conversation. and conversations will effect policy eventually. >> we have some tweets to takes out to block two here . . . >> cultural diplomacy as we mentioned is declined as the exchange of ideas, but is the challenge really cultural discord or policy disagreement and competing interests?
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stewart all over the year, one of which is in egypt, and has just been taken off of the air. at the same time as american policy in egypt is extremely unpopular, jon stewart and the daily show are extremely popular. because they do what we have been talking about. they provide a platform for discussion. they bring in humor and immigration reform rev rans. you can say a lot against a government
[ technical difficulties ] >> of the united states and, you know, any government that believes in freedom of speech is to do whatever it can to keep that space open for debate, and unfortunately, that isn't always what our policy has been. if you have -- if you have an effort to basically stay in good stead with the government, which is what happened in the spring, then you can have an actual conflict. >> spencer i went you to address this, because what cynthia is saying is it sounds like
bureaucratic efforts and cultural diplomacy are at odds with each other. >> i mean, inevitably there is going to be an element of hype -- hypocrisy brought into this, because the united states is going to be basically substituting what people in lots of countries around the world really want to see in terms of policy for something that looks cosmetic, and when you have something that only addresses a cosmetic issue, it becomes a kind of con da sen shun. and that makes the united states not seem sincere. i have lost the thread of
whatever it is egyptians want out of u.s. policy. it seems like no matter what the u.s. does in egypt it is just going to get criticized. but i fail to see how the example of jon stewart has done anything to advance u.s. policy. maybe we're looking at a situation in which the government can benefit through some kind of intangible, benefit of the force and the prestige and cache of u.s. culture without doing much. if you were to ask me what would be a wonderful example of culture that the united states could promote. it would be jr smith of the nix, willow's miss marvel comic. but that's my very particular and parochial perspective on u.s. culture. and it probably won't have much to do with what people's
concerns around the world is with the united states. >> nick says . . . and i want you to gave listen from a muslim artist who went on a tour with the state department. >> hello, as you know we have been created as nations and tribes so we can learn from one another, one of the things that we believed we were doing is traveling overseas to educate the people there about what muslims were like in america, and we were glad we could be a part of that. we did that through our music and travels. >> willow, do you think an
artist can retain their creative integrity after being associated with the u.s. government? >> it's tough. because i think people are a little bit wary, generally speaking any time art becomes associated with the government because of what we were talking about earlier the fine line between art and propaganda. so i think, you know, given the situation of the world today when there are so many competing interests as was mentioned earlier, i think artists v to be conscious of what they represent, but i think, you know, there's only so much that you as an artist have control over. because once you out there in the world, it takes on a life of its own. alan moore's v for vendetta which was the criticism of
margaret thatcher. and when you talk to alan moore about that, he is somewhat ambivalent. so as the artist, all you can do is make your intentions plain, and after that, realize the finished product is ultimately kind of out of your hands. >> what role buzz cultural diplomacy have in recognizing security roles. >> well, while it's true that a lot of american cull shapes the internet, it is quite independent, and the more we can encourage people to shape it in the way that no one really controls, i think it lets a lot of air out of the grievances that people have when they don't feel like they are being heard.
>> cynthia, do you think that the national security objectives of the united states has hijacked cultural diplomacy from its end? >> i think that's a problem, and i think to come back to our earlier discussion, spencer if you'll forgive me, i think you are asking the wrong question. the question is not how could an egypt you know version of jon stewart advance national interest? but what are those national interests? and that's where we have to step back and look at soft power
versus hard power. i think america's strength derives in soft value that is the values, what people believe america stands for. often that is in direct conflict with the policies carried out in the country, support for dictators, we all know the story. artists represent values. they hold up the mirror to society. they are the ones -- the tip of the sphere of the revolution. they are pushing the envelope, questioning, opening the door for others to follow. so any time you try to instrumentalize that and say this artist is going to go out and stand for x, y, z, that is going to be a problem. and it can always provide common ground and that's good. but i think we should pay more attention to the role of the art
its as the people who question and hold society accountable. >> but that comes back to the basic question, how does that really effect policy change and interaction and understanding between countries? >> if i could? >> go ahead. >> first, i -- i think it's kind of strange and a bit telling if a question about u.s. strategy is asked to be divorced from the u.s. national interests. and beyond that, this -- this must sound very strange to a non-american, because cynthia is right, the -- the power of artists to be questioners of society, to pose probing and difficult challenges for what a country is, and what it stands for, and what it says itting stands for, ought to be encouraged, but the face of
american policy is not jon stewart. it's a predator drone. and for a lot of people to be asked to view jon stewart -- and i love the daily show -- before or in some sort of substitute for those -- you know, harder and -- and less inviting aspects of american policy is going to be a non-starter. because it will be a way to marginalize actual concerns and not actually address the real sources of tension that unless you can address, u.s. policy and diplomacy is going to be talking past -- >> i have to stop you there, spencer. is the government involvement even necessary or even beneficial these days? we'll pick up on that.
we're talking about the future of cultural diplomacy in the digital age. is there added value that the government brings in facilitati facilitating cultural diplomacy. >> i think it has to be more about increasing the literacy and ability of people around the world to craft their own language to share with everybody. >> here is the community real quick . . . willow you are a cultural creator, how can we do cultural diplomacy better? >> i think -- and this was mentioned earlier -- that it is important that cultural diplomacy be an exchange. it can't only go one way. it has to be about each side understanding the concerns and day-to-day lives of the other.
and that's where art can play a positive role. because that is the facilitator of the exchange. and it's not simply one side preaching to the other? >> what is the alternative paradigm? >> it would be a diplomacy that addresses the real concerns from a national security perspective and an outraged policy perspective straight on. that whomever the messenger is in the united states, you deal with that up front and then perhaps get to some of the things you might want to do. sports diplomacy is also a good ice breaker. >> all right. cynthia go forit. how can we move forward and do better? >> we can remember what the nigerian novelest says culture humanizing, politic demonizes. the united states is not only
its foreign policy. it is also all of its people and -- and what they do, and that's what cultural diplomacy can bring to the floor. but i agree, i'm not sure the role is necessarily sending americans around the world. i think a more useful role is to leverage local voices, where there are local actors in the literal and figurative sense who are pushing their societies forward; who are pushing the envelope, speaking out freely, advocating for the people, questioning the government. i think the role is to leverage them. >> all right. that's all the time we have. thanks so our guests and to our online community. waj and i will see you on line.
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